Posted in Kafevend Blog
The history of the tea room has its origins, oddly, in coffee. Out of the two, coffee was the first drink to make it to England in the middle of the 17th century. It was taken up as the national drink for a time, and coffee houses sprang up around the country. Drinking coffee wasn't all folk got up to in these houses however. At their best, they were seen as a place you could go to catch up on the news and learn from the many intellectuals who frequented them. At their worst, they were seen as hotbeds of political dissidence. King Charles II even tried to suppress the coffee houses, but their widespread popularity saw that move come to an end pretty quickly.
It was whilst the English were all enjoying coffee that tea arrived on the scene. Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, was instrumental in introducing it to the country when the pair married in 1662. It was a common drink amongst the Portuguese nobility of her homeland, and she soon had the royal court in England enjoying it too. It didn't take long before the populace were also able to savour yet another new fangled drink. At first tea was sold from the existing coffee houses, but they soon acquired venues of their own.
In 1706, a tea merchant by the name of Thomas Twining (the company's founder) purchased a coffee house on the Strand in London from an East India Company trader named Thomas D'Aeth. Whilst he began selling a mix of both tea and coffee, Twining soon found the sales of his tea, particularly dried tea, picked up and eventually dropped the coffee to focus solely on tea. As a result his coffee house was transformed into what came to be considered the first tea room in England; it continues to sell tea to this day.
Yet another drink- or type of drink, rather- was to give tea a boost in the 19th century. In the 1820s the temperance movement began in the UK, as well as across the pond in North America. The focus at the start was mainly on the elimination of spirits rather than wine and beer, and on encouraging moral behaviour. A decade later however, the notion of teetotalism was born with its promotion of complete abstinence from alcohol. The movement took off, and soon alternatives to pubs and bars were springing up to offer drinks more fitting with the zeitgeist- and of course, one of those drinks was tea.
These days, like the many and varied coffee houses you can find everywhere on the high street or tucked away off the beaten path, tea rooms are coming back into fashion in much the same way. For those who have a sweet tooth, a tea room is also always a good bet to find a tempting selection of cakes!